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Macron outlines stance on use of nukes against Russia

French President Emmanuel Macron has said Paris would not respond with nuclear weapons if Russia deployed nukes against Ukraine. The comments immediately drew the ire of critics, who said he had divulged too much information.

Speaking to public broadcaster France 2 on Wednesday, Macron said his country had a clearly defined nuclear doctrine which was based on the “fundamental interests of the nation.”

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“These are clearly defined and wouldn’t be directly affected at all if, for example, there was a ballistic nuclear attack in Ukraine,” he said. Macron also tweeted on Wednesday that France does “not want a world war.”

Macron’s candor drew criticism from former French President François Hollande, who told FranceInfo radio that the credibility of nuclear dissuasion “relies on not saying anything” about what the country might do in specific circumstances. 

Conservative MP Jean-Louis Thiériot echoed that sentiment, telling Politico he nearly “fell out of his chair” when he heard Macron speak, saying there should always be “uncertainty as to what is considered a vital [French] interest.”

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said on Thursday that any nuclear attack against Ukraine would prompt a powerful answer from the West which would see the Russian army “annihilated.” He also admitted, however, it would not be a “nuclear answer.” 

In September, Russian President Vladimir Putin vowed that Moscow would use “all the means” at its disposal if Russia’s territorial integrity was threatened – words that were interpreted in the West as a direct nuclear threat. 

The US has since said it sees no indications that Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine. Asked how the US would respond if Russia used nukes, President Joe Biden said this week it would be “irresponsible” for him to discuss what he would or would not do.

In the Wednesday interview, Macron also said France would send more radars and missiles to help protect Ukraine from Russian missile attacks, following a wave of strikes on numerous cities this week. Paris has already delivered howitzers, portable air defense systems and heavy armored vehicles to Kiev.

The French president admitted, however, that his country had not delivered “as much as the Ukrainians asked for,” pointing out he was “obliged to keep some for us to protect ourselves” and NATO’s eastern flank.

Macron also called on Putin to “stop the war” and come back to the negotiating table for talks with Ukraine. While Kiev has ruled out negotiating with Moscow, Macron said that “at some point” it will be “necessary.”

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